By Colin Cameron
April 22nd is Earth Day. This year, people are organizing to get out and clean up one of the great eyesores of the Eastern Shore, the mounds of litter that pile up along our roadsides and in ditches. For more information on participating in this Earth Day clean up, watch for posts on the Porters Lake Community Issues Facebook page or contact Rick Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a province that spends bundles on trying to attract tourists and new residents, litter can be a real turnoff. A local real estate agent told me a story about a sale he lost to litter. He had a client who was very enamored with the beauty of the Eastern Shore, but eventually chose the Annapolis Valley. He told the agent that he and his wife were put off by the amount of litter on the roads as they drove around inspecting houses. They took the litter as a demonstration that there was a lack of pride in the communities they were driving through.
Tourism season is almost upon us. There are many folks on the Eastern Shore who depend on the tourist season for their livelihood. Roadside litter leaves a negative impression on visitors to our beautiful landscape.
And in the long run, litter is a threat to the health of every animal on the planet. Take those plastic water bottles we buy by the billions. It takes 450 to 900 years for a plastic water bottle to break down, and when it does, it forms microplastics. Microplastics are so small that they can be ingested by plankton (the basis of the aquatic food chain) and be absorbed by plants (microplastics have been detected in maple syrup and bottled water). By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. A recent study found plastic fibers in almost every brand of bottled water. Who knows what we’re doing to our bodies when we swallow these fibers?
What can we do? It ought to be a no-brainer to ban single-use thin plastic bags. Only in Halifax would a slow-witted City Council find it necessary to ask for a staff report on banning these bags, all the while tons of this unwanted plastic are piling up because the Chinese decided they had taken in enough of the world’s trash.
We can all do more to reduce our use of plastics with refillable coffee cups and water bottles, reusable cloth shopping bags, refusing to purchase products with excess packaging or vegetables unnecessarily wrapped in plastic film. Keep an ashtray and litterbag in your car.
Groups, organizations and businesses that are truly concerned can register with the Adopt-a-Highway program to officially adopt a section of Nova Scotia roadway, except 100 series highways and commit to bi-annual cleanups. Your group will receive recognition with a sign displaying your contribution to your community. The Adopt a Highway program has a contest with prize money for the best photo of the most unusual find. The first place winners will receive $200.00, second place $100.00, and third place $50.00 so take pictures. Adopt-a-Highway volunteers collected over 6,000 bags of garbage last year alone. Go to https://www.adoptahighwayns.ca/ for more info.
So on Earth Day weekend, April 21st and 22nd, please rally your group, business, club, organization, or family to get out there and scour the ditches for litter.
Editor's Note: This article is an expanded version of the story that ran in the April 2018 issue.